It seems that in the last year solutions available for residential energy monitoring have exploded. Luckily this is Mapawatt's "bread and butter". The boom in popularity has a lot do to with the flood of products hitting the market for people to track and control their energy usage (see a complete list of energy monitoring companies here), but a large part of the increased attention in this area is due to the focus that Google, Microsoft and now Apple are putting on energy monitoring.
Google announced the PowerMeter in February of 2009 and in October they announced their partnership between the PowerMeter and TED 5000. Basically, the PowerMeter is a dashboard that displays data collected from another company's energy meter. Right now only users that have a smart meter or a TED 5000 (or AlertMe for users in the U.K.) can utilize Google PowerMeter.
Microsoft's approach is a little different than Google's. They announced Microsoft Hohm in June of 2009. Instead of being an energy display tool, Hohm seems to be a recommendation tool. You create an account, enter in a bunch of data about your home, where you live, and how you use electricity, and Microsoft suggests things you can do to save more energy.
I created an account and went through the process, but got tired of answering what seemed like an endless set of questions. While it is certainly important to get all of the data required to model one's home, I am just not too impressed by a tool that simply relies on user supplied data and doesn't have a real-world component (like an energy meter) associated with it. Hohm is also a user community for those interested in saving energy. I'm expecting to see more things come out of Hohm than what is currently available.
Now, if Google and Microsoft combined their tools, I might start to be impressed. And that leads us to what Apple is up to....
News broke recently that in May of 2009 Apple filed two patents for devices that would help users manage their home electricity utilizing the HomePlug standard (communication over your home's electrical wiring). While it is certainly exciting that Apple is interested in this market, it seems that Apple is just focusing on gadgets and computers. This troubles me because so little of the energy you consume in your home is dedicated to gadgets and computers! (You will know this if you have read my blog on Household Energy Use. The graph on that post says that Electronics consume only about 4% of our home energy usage.)
Think about it: How many people who are savvy enough to install a home energy management system aren't already going to have their computers set to standby/hibernate when they are not using them?
In any case, I'm interested to see what Apple, Google, and Microsoft have in store for us. I just hope that they are able to put solutions together that really help consumers conserve massive amounts of energy; not just solutions that will get their names in the paper.